Monday, June 8, 2020

Sunday Storm - Carnarvon Calm

Herald Bight was so enchanting that we ended up staying there for several more days after we last wrote. 

Exploring the Herald Bight mangroves

The gang on the spit at Herald Bight

As always, we were watching the weather forecasts and as the south easterlies freshened again we let go of the plan to go to Monkey Mia and further south on that side of Shark Bay in favour of staying in the sheltered shallows of Herald Bight.  Here we were surrounded by curious turtles, leaping dolphins, all kinds of shore birds foraging at low tide, the usual small sharks and rays, and onshore emus, kangaroos and feral goats wandering the beach.

Great Egret

Eastern Reef Egret - grey morph

A poised Pied Oyster Catcher
What is this?

Shelter from the Sunday Storm
With a forecast north easterly change in a few days, it was time to head back around to Denham on the other side of Cape Peron, pick up our mail and groceries and seek better shelter from the north.  By then the forecast was starting to look a bit ‘fresh’ and had become Tropical Cyclone Mangga heading straight for Shark Bay and teaming up with a south-west front to create nasty weather all down the coast of WA. With 60 knots (120km/hr) winds forecast on the Sunday we needed good all-round shelter. 

After considering our own knowledge of Shark Bay and consulting a couple of experienced local seafarers, we headed over to the aptly named Sunday Bay at the south end of Dirk Hartog Island.  This is a great sheltered anchorage with the island providing protection from the northeast to west and south, and a shallow weed bank on the east keeping the swell out.  This was Friday so we had plenty of time to prepare ourselves for our first cyclone. 

We dropped our trusty super-sized big anchor at the northern end of the bay and buried it completely in nice white sand with lots of chain out and extra lines (snubbers) securing it to the boat.  Our second anchor was hanging from the bow ready to go just ‘in case’.  We took all the sails and covers down and stored them below to reduce windage, and anything loose or flappy on deck was stowed or securely lashed. Phones, radios, headlight torches charged. Safety gear checked.  Everything shipshape and all ready for the ride!

Stripped and ready for the storm

Storm anchor set up
Saturday was that lovely calm stillness before the storm.  Sunday morning the wind started to build from the north-east and brought an incredible red dust storm from the desert reducing visibility to a few hundred metres at best.  The northerly winds were gusting up to 50 knots by lunchtime but we were snug in the bay and spent the time loafing around in the cabin reading, cooking and resting in between checks on deck to make sure everything was okay – and watching the poor odd bird trying to make some headway. 

Dust storm and 40 knots 
By mid-afternoon the wind dropped and the red dust turned to light red muddy rain.  Finally, the wind swung to the west bringing heavy rain to wash all the dust off – with a bit of assistance from Mr Flottmann’s deck scrubber - and even put a bit of clean rainwater in our tanks.

Muddy red rain

Scrubbing the decks mid storm
We then had a night of 40 knot (80km/hr) south-westerly winds and woke on Monday morning to a very benign feeling 25 knots.  All was well on our good little ship Upstart.

A few weeks later we now find ourselves in Carnarvon, a medium sized town by rural Australian standards at the northern end of Shark Bay.  It wasn’t on our bucket-list for a stopover but during the course of routine boat jobs, Chris found some worrying corrosion in our chainplate bolts. The chainplates are stainless steel plates embedded in the boat that the rigging wires attach to and are an essential bit of kit for holding the mast up – not something that you want to have fail out on the high seas!

We needed to find somewhere we could go with the facilities to have the mast removed.  The choices were Carnarvon about 70 miles north, or Geraldton 180 miles south.  Carnarvon was clearly our preference being north and having a small friendly yacht club, however the channel into the Fascine (the estuary in town where the yacht club is) is very shallow and officially closed having silted up in a big storm in 2017, so we were unsure if we could get in.  By chance we met Lee from Carnarvon Yacht Club on his catamaran in Herald Bight and he assured us that we’d have ‘no worries’ with our keel up at 1 metre and the right tide. 

We said a final farewell to Denham and headed north with an overnight stopover at the beautiful big Broadhurst Bay just south west of Cape Peron.  

The first human footsteps on the beach at Broadhurst Bay since the storm
Poor drowned echidna -  victim of the storm
Arriving in Carnarvon at dusk, we anchored outside the channel for the night and set off in the dinghy the next day to explore the way into the Fascine and check out the yacht club.  With our trusty oar as a depth sounder we plotted a course over the bar and through the channel with enough water depth that would see us safely through on a high tide. 

Where the Fascine channel was before the 2017 storm
Baby ospreys watching the boats go by from their nest atop a channel marker

The following morning we had perfect conditions for our adventure across the bar and came through with plenty of water underneath us.  We certainly turned a few heads when we arrived at the yacht club as we are probably the first big monohull to come in since the 2017 storm. Comments like "how the hell did you get in?" and then the "aha" moment when they learned of our lifting keel – a rarity in yachts of our size in Australia.

Through the shallow shifting sand banks into Carnarvon

Tucked in the Carnarvon Yacht Club
We were welcomed at the club with great friendliness, allocated a pen in their new floating dock marina with all the facilities and offered all the help we could possibly need.  There's a great bunch of interesting old blokes here who work tirelessly for their club.  They have been running their own dredger for the last two years to make a channel out of the fascine, restoring old Windrush 14 surfcats to build a racing fleet, rebuilding marina walls, plus loads of other projects.

Exploring the Fascine on foot
Succulent samphire thriving in the river delta

Carnarvon although only having a population of around 4,500 is the centre of the Gascoyne region and services the mining, pastoral, plantation and fishing industries. It has a good array of shops and small businesses for all the services, bits and bobs we need for the job ahead. We are now waiting for the crane to come and lift the mast sometime this week. 

Hope this is not the crane we have booked

Old Carnarvon tramway station

Freight train
with rolling stock

We expect to have the mast off for a week or so then be ready to head off again in early July, when the next full moon high tides occur.   Meanwhile, we are enjoying Carnarvon and the lovely winter weather of warm sunny days, light winds and cool clear nights. With such great facilities and people, we have joined the yacht club and plan to come back and base ourselves here for the summer cyclone season after exploring Ningaloo and the Montebello Islands this winter.

Little welcome swallows trying to move on-board

Plotting the next leg up the coast

Another gorgeous sunset

1 comment:

  1. Hei you two Upstarts, looks like you are having a Whale if a time - Green with envy as I’ve just spent the last month in and out of hospital with an asteroid sized kidney stone - I do not recommend trying this at home! Still hoping to join you aboard sometime in the post-C19 future! Smooth sailing until then XnX


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